Founded in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna’s industrial district, over the course of 38 years in business Valmatic has established itself as a go-to operator in the international single serve packaging market. From a bold inception to global expansion, the story of this enterprise is as implausible as it is inspiring.
A story is most compelling when recounted by their protagonists. All the more so when the narrator, as he runs through incidents and incidentals, almost seems to excuse himself for what he himself has yet to fully comprehend, as if reminding us that there’s always time and a way to do better…
Maurizio Levratti, owner of Valmatic, is a native son of a land – Emilia – in which one can still find a deeply rooted culture that values the right to pursue happiness and that minimum of material means that make it possible, so that every life is worth living.
With human intelligence, initiative and a sense of duty, Levratti pursued a project based on a surprising mix of circumstances, one based on collective and technical knowledge and which does not limit itself to economic growth, in the cherished conviction that the latter is not the real source of wellbeing.
This is why the Valmatic story comes off as one of “yet another beginning”…
Today, the concern headquartered in San Prospero (MO) has rooted its core business in single serve packaging of various product types (liquid, cream, gel, granulate…) for the food, cosmetic, nutraceutical, pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. The decision to position itself in this market segment proved a winning strategy in the face of evolving consumer trends and lifestyles, leading to an ever-increasing number of customers opting for this packaging type in order to market their products.
However, the road to growth does not always slope gently downhill. Determination, initiative and a capacity for reinventing itself have carried the concern to success, on a path fraught with the dif cult challenges reserved for those who build their fortune from the ground up. Over the years, Valmatic has managed to expand and diversify its offer by developing thermoforming lines for the production and lling of one-time- use containers in a wide array of formats and materials.
Your machines are sold on the international market, or used internally for contracting. What is the relationship between these two activities?
Selling machinery definitely guarantees a significant profit share, but most of our turnover is generated from our contract packaging service, a full service that begins with the creation of a single serve container, which can also be personalized, and extends as far as creation of the secondary packaging.
However, it is difficult to say what the effective relationship between the two activities is. They are synergic and complementary, with reciprocal contamination. In fact, when we build machines to sell, we also gain experience which is then applied in our contract work. Vice-versa, the efficiency and quality of our internal processes offer a concrete example of the knowhow we make available to our customers, who are often in need of guidance in choosing formats and materials. While this selection requires great care to ensure compatibility with the products to be packaged, we are able to offer users excellent and original format solutions thanks to a wide assortment of moulds.
Moreover, it’s part of our company culture to treat the customer as a partner. We carefully listen to their needs and make ourselves available for working closely together through development and testing in order to satisfy their requests and optimize timeframes. It has also happened on occasion that we shared investments in order to realize specific solutions, so that nothing goes to waste. Acquired tools and skills can always prove useful later on.
The reliability, heart and enthusiasm that we put into what we do are appreciated by the market. I am convinced that this approach represents a real competitive edge.
This is recent history. Let’s take a step back… How was Valmatic born?
It all began in the early 1980s, when my brother-in-law asked me to invest in the creation of a company. He had decided to set up his own business building packaging machinery for suppositories, relying on the technical experience he had gained working as a manager in the sector.
At the time I had zero knowledge in the field, but decided to support him anyway. That’s how we started out… in a garage, although in the beginning my only contribution was a financial one. In the meantime I continued to work a day job, but with some other ideas in mind.
At which point did you start working directly in the business?
The circumstances that led me to start working hands-on were not the happiest. In 1984, after the collapse of a customer, we found ourselves with three unsold machines and a lot of debt. I was forced to quit my job in order to help my brother-in-law out of situation that seemed to have no way out. I took the opportunity to take the leap with both feet – not without a bit of foolhardiness – into a (nearly) impossible enterprise, but one whose potential I could discern. In spite of my inexperience, I immediately got to work, and, after a few months, I managed to sell two of the machines we had built, liquidating the entire debt.
I soon realized that in order to credibly market to the world of pharmaceutical packaging it was necessary to move from an “artisanal” production model to a more structured one. With this goal in mind, in the late 1980s we signed a deal with a commercial enterprise that was looking for a stable partner to entrust with its production operations. Determined to carry on, we decided to self-finance the project, at great personal expense. The hardest test, however, was still yet to arrive. Shortly after, my brother-in-law fell gravely ill and was forced to leave the business.
A tough blow, I imagine, and not only from a work point of view…
I was beset with panic… All the same, I decided to buy up his share, but I needed to find someone to give me a hand, aboveall on the technical side, a field which my brother-in-law had looked after up to then. This is how Romolo Draghetti, our time honoured co-worker who enjoyed my full faith, entered into the partnership.
I decided to continue because I intuited that single serve packaging for third parties was a business with great potential, and that a company like ours, never mind how small it was, if successfully established, could become competitive.
It was no coincidence that in making our first steps in this market, many attempts were made to block us. Many tried to buy us up with the sole purpose of throwing a spanner in the works… Despite these beginnings, we managed to rent a new shed at very advantageous conditions, in exchange for revamping the spaces from a production point of view.
That is, a new beginning…
The adaptation of the structure was the necessary condition for offering ourselves as reliable partners to the big names of the cosmetics and pharmaceutical sector. Despite this, as in many case, our capacity to start fruitful relations found us the right occasion to demonstrate our credibility. Thanks to our being quite enterprising, we managed to start up an ongoing collaboration with two leaders at international level – L’Oreal and Guaber – which we managed to “loyalize” after the first jobs, demonstrating our reliability and the added value we were able to offer: for us helpfulness and availability, accuracy and respecting instructions and delivery times were and are our absolute priorities.
What did you produce?
Mainly sampling and single serve cosmetic and household products, to be sent all around the world.
We took on 26 people, all young girls. Among these there was Graziana Tassinari, who soon distinguished herself for her managerial skills, to the point where over the years becoming a key gure in the company.
The experience of those years allowed us to acquire a solid knowhow on the subject of single serve packaging, up to becoming a privileged partner in the field of contract manufacturing.
The business has grown in the meantime, also thanks to a series of courageous intuitions. Like the agreement with Guaber to pack clothing dyes for the Coloreria Italiana line: a project on which I wagered right from the beginning and that was shown to be successful, because much appreciated by the customers. Thanks to the growth in turnover we funded the improvement of the structures, automated the processes and increased efficiency.
All this regarding your contract activities for third parties… But now you are also known for your machines
Often the new projects come into a being in a moment of crisis, and this was also the case for us. Even if in the first instance it was an advantage, almost exclusively working for two big customers proved to be an obstacle when it came down to diversifying our offer. After having learned at our expense that, as contractors, we were “passive” subjects in terms or our customers’ product policies, we opted for a radical change of strategy: differentiate production, reduce the minimum order, focus on packs for sales products and not only for sampling, so as to be able to guarantee production continuity and a more effective management of jobs. But not only that… It was at that time that we began “pushing” on the construction of machines in order to sell them, and not only for our own in-house use for contract manufacturing.
With what results?
Briefly, we have received sizeable offers from big companies in the pharmaceutical industry, including Wyeth Lederle (Pfizer Group), for which we have supplied a machine for the single serve packaging for pet products against fleas and ticks for the general retail trade. A project I am still proud of, developed in cooperation with the company technical personnel in our works: for two years we worked synergically, carrying out scrupulous machine as well materials tests, to find the optimum composition that guarantees the perfect stability of the plastic polymer. The customer, fully satisfied, subsequently maintained a stable and pro table working relationship with us, thanks to which we have been inserted in the official list of certified suppliers.
Important achievements for a business enterprise. But you didn’t stop there. What has changed over these last years?
We decidedly and I would say successfully pursued the aim of making a name for ourselves internationally, also thanks to a systematic presence and fairs around the world.
But we have also invested in communication, as Graziana Tassinari has always wished, even if, personally I have always have been a bit prejudiced on the role of advertising. That is to say, our solutions are innovative, but in order to sell them being capable of proposing and presenting them to the market is fundamental. And given that no-one
buys a machine if they haven’t understood what it is for, one has to in first and foremost promote and let people know about the advantages of the pack, in our case, versatile single serve packs, with many possible applications and variants. Now more than ever I am proud of the work done, especially since I have my sons Mirko and Luca beside me: they joined the company discreetly, but with a great desire to get on, learn, achieve and get things done.
And also thanks to them and their willingness to “act as a group”, when it does come the generational transfer won’t be that traumatic but, if anything, a further boost towards improvement.
Stefano Lavorini, Chiara Giannangeli
Published in the magazine Italia Imballaggio Marzo 2018 pag. 53-57